As nice as it was to have the access, no one was watching.

Image Source: Reddit

It was New Year’s Eve.

A group of friends were at our home, and we were ten minutes away from turning the calendar. I called everyone into the TV room to watch the replayed broadcast from Times Square in NYC.

But as soon as I turned on the TV and the cable connection, I saw error messages.

Whoops. I had to laugh, suddenly remembering that my wife had called our cable provider to cancel the service earlier that same day. Impeccable timing, babe!

Not to worry. I logged into our TV’s YouTube app and quickly found a livestream of the countdown from nearby Seattle on NBC’s King 5 channel.

And that story says a lot about the state of entertainment media today.

TV’s Final Stand: Live Sporting Events

The slow death of cable TV is nothing new. It’s a prospect that we’ve seen coming for the last decade. But what’s always held me back from pulling the plug on cable are the live events.

Sports. Election night coverage. New Year’s Eve countdowns.

Okay, maybe it was always really only about the sports.

And therein lay the problem. I just wasn’t watching any. The monthly bill we were paying for our cable package was getting harder and harder to rationalize.

The Rise of Streaming Alternatives

In my mind, the final nail in the coffin of cable TV was the improvement and expansion of choices available in streaming sports packages.

The licensed ones, I mean. Pirated sports broadcasts — in all their pixelated glory — have been around for over a decade.

But after doing a little shopping, my wife and I confirmed that I could watch my favorite teams on a monthly subscription that cost a fraction of our old cable bill. I found it assuring to confirm that such options existed.

A Change in Time Priorities

Still, it’s been seven months since we made the fateful decision to cut the cable. And I have yet to feel much desire to activate an online sports package as a replacement.

I guess I want to hold out for a while. To see how long I can go without watching pro sports at all. To see how much I’ll actually miss it.

This is far from a hate-on for sports. I love pro sports — unapologetically so.

It’s simply an acknowledgment that I actually don’t have a lot of time to watch sports during the week.

As a husband and stepdad, it’s already challenging enough to carve out quality non-screen times with the family. As an educator, I always have more planning to do, assignments to assess, and emails to write. As a student, I have articles and books to read, forums to contribute to, and papers to complete. As a creative writer and podcaster, I’m trying to set aside time for reflection and content creation each week as well.

So the idea of sitting back on the couch and watching more than an hour of sports with a drink in hand just isn’t my reality today. It hasn’t been for a long time. And I can’t really say that I want it to be.

The Next Gen Perspective

Ask my two stepsons, 12 and 14, to name their favorite TV channels or shows and you won’t get much. The Amazing Race, maybe. Or American Ninja Warriors.

They only know those shows because we’ve made them family events in the past. Even then, the shows were always pre-recorded so that we could skip the commercials. And it’s worth noting that just like sporting events, these shows are available over streaming services, too.

My boys don’t care much TV or anything on it, but if that’s the only screen available, they’ll watch YouTube. For them, channels like Dude PerfectFailArmyTheOdd1sOut, or a host of others provide much more interesting and entertaining content than anything the cable networks can offer.

The Late Shows: Models of Platform Evolution

Image Source: CTV

The late shows of cable TV capture the evolution of TV-to-internet as well as any video content in the marketplace today.

For a genre born entirely on the TVs of America’s living rooms, they’ve done well to adapt in recent years to the online shift in viewership. Jimmy Fallon (19M subscribers), Jimmy Kimmel (13M), and my personal favorite — Stephen Colbert (5.6M) — all earn millions of views daily.

On YouTube, their content is easy to find, doesn’t require pre-scheduled recording, caters to any bedtime, and can be watched in short bursts — like when I’m munching on an evening snack.

Just as importantly, the show clips are easy to post, share, and embed in other content. YouTube offers a virality and a binge-ability that conventional cable TV can’t match.

Not surprisingly, all the major professional sports leagues are all building their presence on YouTube as well.

Predicting the Future

What will the media landscape look like a decade from now? No one knows for sure — despite the fantastic scenarios conjured in Black Mirror.

The way things are trending, we can expect more on-demand offerings, more niche subscription services, improved TV apps, faster internet, and more powerful devices.

Will cable TV survive as we know it today? I doubt it.

But I can tell you this. I don’t miss it. My wife never cared about it. And to put it in middle school terms, my boys think it sucks.

As a fairly typical middle class family, that’s about as strong a signal about the future of media as you’re about to see.

We’ve cut the cable. And I doubt we’ll ever go back.